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Current Affairs

Human elephant conflict more accute in west Bengal and Odisha

Date: 16 February 2020 Tags: Biodiversity


Three States located of West Bengal, Odisha and Assam account for about half of both human and elephant deaths in the overall human-elephant conflict in the country, according to the latest data provided by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.



The data on human-elephant conflict assumes significance when India is moving to include Asian Elephants in the list of species that merit heightened conservation at the 13th Conference of Parties (COP) on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals scheduled to be held at Gandhinagar in Gujarat later this month.



  • Over the last five years, from 2014-15 to 2018-19, 2,381 human deaths were recorded in elephant attacks across the country, of which 1,132 (48%) fatalities were from these three States.

  • West Bengal had the highest number of human casualties: 403, followed by Odisha with 397 and Assam with 332 deaths.

  • When it comes to unnatural deaths of elephants (mainly due to poaching, train accidents, electrocution and poisoning), the country recorded 490 deaths in the same period (2014-15 to 2018-19). Of these, 259 (53%) occurred in these three States alone.

  • The last synchronised elephant survey in the country in 2017, had given a figure of 27,312 elephants, of which Assam had recorded 5,719 elephants, Odisha 1,976 and West Bengal 642.

  • Among the reasons for unnatural deaths of elephants, electrocution is at the top of the list, accounting for 68% of elephant deaths in the country.

  • Assam accounted for 66 electrocution deaths, followed by Odisha with 57 deaths and Bengal with 39 fatalities.

  • The second most common cause for unnatural deaths of elephants is train accidents. Between 2014-15 to 2018-19, 77 deaths were due to train accidents, whereas poaching led to the death of 27 elephants and poisoning to nine deaths.

Reasons for conflict

  • Habitat fragmentation, mining inside forested areas and linear infrastructure building had all contributed to impinging upon the habitats of elephants.

  • A drought almost certainly played a role in the initial large scale dispersal of elephants from Jharkhand to southern West Bengal during 1986-87. More dispersals have since taken place into Chhattisgarh and beyond into Madhya Pradesh.